I started writing a fan post on Matt Ryan in 2011 ,but I realized the Falcons are much bigger than Ryan which made me wonder "Who really are the Falcons?".
The answers to the above question range from Falcons being an overrated team, NFC Playoff contender, average team winning close games and an above average running team with an overrated QB etc. Lets jump in to the post to find "Who really are Mike Smith's Falcons?" and more importantly how the Falcons compared to rest of the league in 2011.
Personally, I am not a big fan of averages or over all high level stats. Football is a situational game, different situations dictate different strategy,scheme and play calling for both offense and defense. To win in NFL, more often than not the team which scores more Touchdowns than opposing team wins the game. Lets take a look at the following three game situations (game with in a score,leading by 10+ points,trailing by 10+ points) which most of the Offenses and defenses have to deal with.
Clutch time Drives: Game with in 1 score for either of the teams(+ or - 7 points)
This is where most of the teams try to play their best football and score as many TD as possible. Its important to score points to take a lead,increase the lead or come back and tie the game before its too late. The table below shows the TD Scored% by an offense and TD % allowed by defense. The net grade is difference in Percentage points between TD Scored and TD Allowed. This is the phase of the game where most of teams play more than 50% of their total drives.
TD Scored % Rank
TD Allowed% Rank
Net Grade Rank
- The Green Bay Packers scored TD on more than 50% of the drives when the game was with in a score. Now, if any one had doubts why Aaron Rodgers was MVP last year not Brady or Drew Brees, its time to let go of those doubts.
- Atlanta Falcons offense ranked 3rd only behind GB and NE in scoring TD% when the game was with in a score, Falcons defense however ranked 21st and Falcons ended up with a net grade ranking of 6. It is surprising when you consider the awful play calling and the least successful running game in NFL on first downs.
- NYG,CIN and DEN are the only Play off teams outside the top 12 grades. All there of the above teams played more closer games than other teams, each of the teams had at least 120 Drives when the game was with in a score.
- Baltimore Ravens ranked fifth if you consider Net Grade, however the offense ranked 10th in TD scored%. If you consider just the passing TD and the rushing TD from with in 10 yards, the TD scored % drops to 10%. Imagine where Falcons could be if Ryan had the Ravens Defense to support the offense.
- Tampa Bay sank to the bottom in the grades, now thats expected if the team gets blown out for 10 games in a row. Carolina ranked 5th in TD scored % with equal number of rushing and passing TD,however the Panthers Defense ranked 30th in TD allowed.
Drives with 10+ point Lead:
The Falcons ranked 25th in the league for the net grade with just 16% TD Scored and 32% TD allowed when leading by 10+ points. This is not surprising as the Falcons shut down their offense followed by end less parade of Punts. This is one area I would like to light a fire under Mike Smith, he should get his players and coaches to put the game away and crush the opposing teams.
One more thing, this is one phase of the game Saints really do well, the TD % Scored for Saints jumps to 45 % when they are leading by 10+ points. Now I want Mike Smith to do the same so Ryan can score lot of points and pad up his stats.
Trailing by10 Points or more Drives :
This is one area Falcons were bad in 2010, even though the Falcons were 13-3. They went ahead and added Julio Jones to become more explosive. DId It work?
Yes and No, Falcons ranked 16th in TD scored % and 25th in TD allowed % when trailing by 10 points or more. Falcons erased a ten points or more defect in 3 games( Carolina,Eagles and Saints first game) and won two of those games. How ever there were two games (Saints second game and Bears game) where the Falcons could never comeback. This phase for Falcons is work under progress hampered by Offensive Line which doesn't let Matt throw 40 times a game nor protect him longer than 2 sec.
Now back to the question: Who really are the Falcons?
The Falcons are a team like someone with Multiple Personality disorder. The Falcons are a team with an offense in top 3 when the game is on the line with a struggling defense ranked in the twenties. However Falcons also have one of the NFL's worst offense and defense when the lead is more than 10 points. Another area of improvement is coming back when trailing by more than 10 points.
I want the Falcons team to have the killer instinct and have identity of dominating other team. I personally think Head coach ,Coordinators are more to blame for the inconsistencies than players. What do you think?